Graphic Novel Reviews

Judge Dredd Vs Aliens: Incubus

(2003) John Wagner, Andy Diggle and Henry Flint, Rebellion, 13.99/US$22.95, hrdbk, pp (un-numbered), ISBN 1-904-26510-3


Cross-overs sometimes work and sometimes they do not. Batman and the Predator initial trilogy certainly delivers, as did Judge Dredd vs Predator. However the two volumes of Batman versus Aliens certainly do not and despite good artwork can only be described as weak. So how does Mega City One's top lawman fare facing the aliens? (Especially as the Batman/Dredd team-ups themselves were so-so.) Well Dredd has beaten Death himself not to mention an Earth full of zombies, so what are a few pesky aliens to worry about? The plot is of course defined by the 'Alien' franchise. An alien gets loose due to corrupt human action and our hero has to deal with it. In this case the initial release is due to a petty crook who had attempted to use aliens in pit fights. However he originally stole the creatures from someone else who had brought them to Earth for a quite different purpose. Dredd is soon on the trail and has a series of encounters with aliens. "Take me if you are hard enough." Naturally the Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusset and H. R. Giger's 'Alien' is one mean creature and Dredd requires help. He gets it from some old 'friends' but I ain't spoiling this for you oither than to say some of his new side-kicks include a team of mega City 'verminators'.

As intimated, this cross-over could easily have failed to work. But Judge Dredd vs. Aliens does and does so well. I would have loved it to have been a bit longer especially as it is perhaps a little short(?). Wagner and Diggle have a reasonably good story but its Flint's inked colour artwork that, for me, makes it. (Not bad for someone working in Geiger's shadow.) And the lettering is done by 2000AD stalwart Tom Frame: the man's been with us since the early IPC days. All together this cross-over is rip roaring fun with an emphasis on the rip and roaring.

Downside? Well only one. There is little to link the Mega City world with that of the Alien film. Alien was set in an industrial space-going future but we do not see the Earth. Dredd stories are largely Earth-based in an industrial future which has space travel (that Dredd himself has occasionally used. So it would be quite feasible to hybrid the two futures in a handful of references. After all the Dredd/Predator cross-over did just that. Furthermore Titan (who have had a history of association with 2000AD characters) published the Alien graphic novels. Could not the Ripley encounters have happened in Dredd's past? I hope that the 2000AD crew consider this should they get the chance for a re-match. And should they do so they can get around the fact they did not mention this in this graphic novel because the records of the original 'Alien' encounters were lost in the Sov or Robot Wars, necropolis or whatever.

This volume is actually published by Rebellion and not Titan whom have published most of the 200AD graphics novels of the past quarter of a century. Concat was told (this summer 2004) by someone in the trade that Titan has lost its 2000AD franchise and separately we had received official press information that DC had a contract for producing 2000AD comics in the US. We did ask 2000AD what happened to the Titan arrangement but were not favoured with a reply from the top (just a courteous notification that the question was being passed on up). Whether or not this is cause for concern remains to be seen, but the last time Titan briefly lost their contract (to Hamlyn in 1998) it led to a slew of titles (all colour) produced but no stability and stocks soon ran out. Earlier still when 2000AD was with Fleetway (1990) just a handful of stories were reprinted in occasionally oddly compiled collections. Titan though gave us both colour and earlier B&W reprints, as well as both hard and soft backs, and their collections did sometimes include either introductory or parallel spin-off stories (for example as in Necropolis). This was most welcome.

Anyway Rebellion has produced this volume which was slated to come out in November 2003 but appears only (in the UK at least) to have only been on shop bookshelves since February 2004. Actually I lie. One or two of the Concat' team tried to get copies and many of central London's specialist stores had sold out (one of our people had to resort to a non-specialist bookshop). Indeed staff at Forbidden Planet were heard to say to each other: "What, we've run out again!" before commenting that they only are allowed to order a limited number. So all evidence points to this title walking off the shelves. Let's hope that Rebellion reprints. The message to you, dear graphic novel reader, is that if you see this then don't hesitate, buy it as your opportunities may be limited. Meanwhile we have to trust that Rebellion has ensured that the 2000AD graphic collections have been given a good home, and if not there better had be a very good reason for Titan not to manage things. After all the one thing the 2000AD bosses should have learned in its quarter century history, with its readership waxing and waning, is that reader loyalty goes only so far. This graphic novel could either be the last high-note for the compilations to go out on, or it could be a fresh start. We will see.

Jonathan Cowie

Other past Dredd titles reviewed include: Goodnight Kiss and Featuring Judge Death.

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